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12-02-02: Farmer may change plea in county pollution case
The Daily Standard

    The final pretrial/change of plea hearing in a stream litter case against a Fort Recovery-area farmer could be set in three weeks, a Celina Municipal Court official said this morning.
    Judge James Scheer is currently awaiting an additional filing that could resolve the matter involving Mike Fullenkamp, 707 St. Joe Road, Fort Recovery.
    Fullenkamp pleaded not guilty on June 10 in Celina Municipal Court to a charge of stream litter after manure from his dairy operation got into the Wabash River on or about May 9.
    The charge carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and $500 fine plus court costs.
    Officials from the Ohio EPA, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife and Mercer County Wildlife Officer Ryan Garrison all initially responded to the farm to find an overflowing manure lagoon. The manure apparently was seeping from the lagoon and into a tributary that leads to the river, an OEPA spokeswoman said in May.
    Ohio EPA spokeswoman Heather Lauer has said that EPA records indicated Fullenkamp's dairy operation had 380 milking cows, 400 heifers and 50 calves.
    The Daily Standard also has learned that Fullenkamp paid $5,407.69 in civil damages to the Ohio Division of Wildlife last September after more manure from his dairy operation got into the Wabash River on or around Aug. 12, just about three months after the May incident. The manure reportedly entered Fullenkamp's farm tile system before entering the river.
    The civil damages paid by Fullenkamp represent restitution for the loss of 11,789 fish killed by the manure and investigation costs, said Kevin O'Dell, assistant law enforcement administrator with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
    "We actually get out and count the fish and figure up an amount," O'Dell said of the process for figuring civil penalties.
    River and creek pollution, specifically manure from farming operations, is a common problem in Mercer County, O'Dell said. The county typically ranks  first   or  second  in  the state annually in agriculture receipts.
    A manure pollution incident is only considered a fish kill when the amount of fish killed is worth more than $50. If it is under $50, the incident is considered stream litter, which can net the guilty person a fine equivalent to throwing a pop can into the river.
    Stream litter charges are disposed through Celina Municipal Court.
    O'Dell said minnows, catfish, suckers, bluegill and carp were among the fish killed.


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